Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What We Have Done?

From Damian Carrington, an environmental editor at the Guardian, some facts on life on Earth.

To start, the human race is just 0.01% of all life but has destroyed over 80% of wild mammals.

Bacteria are a major life form – 13% of everything – but plants dominate, with 82% of all living matter. All other creatures, from insects to fungi, fish to animals, make up just 5% of the world’s biomass.

60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock, mostly cattle and pigs, 36% are human and just 4% are wild animals. Farmed poultry makes up 70% of all birds on the planet, with just 30% being wild.

Since the rise of human civilisation, 83% of wild land mammals, 80% of marine mammals and 50% of plants have been lost.

Viruses alone have a combined weight three times that of humans, as do worms. Fish are 12 times greater than people and athropods (insects, spiders, crustaceans) 17 time more. Bacteria outweigh humans by 1200 times.

Oh, and life in the oceans turns out to represent just 1% of all biomass. The vast majority of life is land-based and a large chunk – an eighth – is bacteria buried deep below the surface.
The full article can be found here.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Hope Community, 40 Years!

I recommend to you the work of Hope Community, a 40-year-old community development corporation in Minneapolis. They are unusual among CDCs, however, since they don't actually build housing themselves, for the most part. Instead, they partner with other CDCs and even management companies to run the residential aspects of their buildings... and spend their time creating community among residents, providing youth programming, and working with immigrant adults on reading and other life skills.

This is not supportive housing, however. All programs are optional and therefore have to be attractive enough to exist without a forced audience. They have a great community garden program, for instance. They have a summer camp program geared particularly to kids who live in their four large, new apartment buildings and dozens of duplexes and single-family homes arranged around the city block where they started decades ago.

Here are three quotes from their history that are now part of a large collage on one wall of a gathering space in the building they call the Children's Village Center:

Shannon Jones, their recently named executive director, was herself a Hope resident about 15 years ago. I look forward to seeing what she, the staff, and community can achieve together in the next 40 years.

Shannon Jones (left) and Hope founder Char Madigan (right), with an image from decades ago showing what is now the Hope Community neighborhood.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Twenty Is Plenty

Hey, did you know that a pedestrian hit by a car going 20mph has about a 1 in 10 chance of dying, while a pedestrian hit by a car going 40mph has a 4.5 in 10 chance of dying?

And did you also know, given that those are averages, that an older person hit is much more likely to die than a young person (a 70-year-old has a 7 in 10 chance of dying in the 40mph scenario)?

That's why I like this sign:

It's an unauthorized use of a city pole, but it looks totally official. Good job, guerrilla sign-makers!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

This Is Minnesota

It's not a great photo or a particularly charming setting, but it represents life in Minnesota these days:

Note the business name, Midwest Market, which features Halal meat. Then on the left door, there's a sign that says Hot & Fresh New England Coffee Served Inside.

I find that sign much stranger than the Midwestern Halal meat. Coffee doesn't come from New England and I don't even know what those words mean as a marketing phrase. Are they supposed to make us think of Dunkin' Donuts or something?

New England coffee. What is that?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Puzzle Picture

My awareness of light and shadow is not that great compared to my artist friends. But I did manage to capture this last night:

A not-bad puzzle picture, if I do say so myself.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Safer Streets

Today, I have the confluence of two posts about street safety.

First from Streets MN, Unsafe Streets Are Unequitable: For Vulnerable Road Users, "Doing Everything" Isn't Enough. It's the story of a white, male attorney who was hit by a car while riding his bike, and how hard the process was even with all of his advantages.

Second, there's Jason Kottke summarizing a New York Times article called What America Can Learn from Europe About Redesigning Urban Traffic Patterns. My favorite points that Kottke excerpts:

  • The best way to slow cars down is to throw away all the techniques that traffic engineers developed to make traffic flow quickly.
  • When drivers slow down to 20 m.p.h. or below, they are less likely to hit people and much less likely to seriously injure or kill people if they do hit them.
  • Improving public transit gets you the result of fewer cars. Quoting Bogata mayor Enrique PeƱalosa: “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport.”
My only argument with the original post is that the writer uses the term "congestion pricing," which is in common use, of course, but he should know that it makes a lot more sense to call it "decongestion pricing" since that is the result.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Well Said

From today's Star Tribune letters to the editor, just one sentence from letter about CIA director nominee Gina Haspel's history with torture:

It is hard for me to understand that we could survive the existential threat of a world war with a certain level of humanity and then when presented with a threat (terrorism) that is not existential, we would begin to mirror our enemies.
Well said, Dana Post of Minneapolis.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Free Food in Minneapolis

I didn't realize the Chef Shack Ranch restaurant in Minneapolis had this little red box on one side of its building:

The words on the box say "FREE STREET PANTRY."

Some people take the sharing economy more seriously than others.

Monday, May 14, 2018

On the Media on the Poverty Myths

I haven't had time to listen to it yet, but the little part I heard of yesterday's On the Media episode made me want to give it some time.

This is the way they wrote it up for their website:

Today, more than 45 million Americans live in poverty. The problem has been addressed countless times since the nation’s founding, but it persists, and for the poorest among us, it gets worse. America has not been able to find its way to a sustainable solution, because most of its citizens see the problem of poverty from a distance, through a distorted lens. So in 2016, we presented "Busted: America's Poverty Myths," a series exploring how our understanding of poverty is shaped not by facts, but by private presumptions, media narratives, and the tales of the American Dream. This week we're revisiting part of that series.

1. Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted, on the myriad factors that perpetuate wealth inequality and Jack Frech, former Athens County Ohio Welfare Director, on how the media's short attention span for covering inequality stymies our discourse around poverty.

2. Jill Lepore, historian and staff writer for the New Yorker, on the long history of America's beloved "rags to riches" narrative and Natasha Boyer, a Ohio woman whose eviction was initially prevented thanks to a generous surprise from strangers, on the reality of living in poverty and the limitations of "random acts of kindness."

3. Brooke [Gladstone, cohost] considers the myth of meritocracy and how it obscures the reality: that one's economic success is more due to luck than motivation. 
I'm looking forward to hearing it. The three stories listed above can be listened to as one episode or separately here.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Katherine Hayhoe Thinks About Why and Why Not

If you care about the effort to limit climate change, you probably already know about Katherine Hayhoe, atmospheric scientist and associate professor of political science at Texas Christian University. She's one of the most prominent people trying to connect her fellow Christians with climate science.

She recently created a tweet storm that's worth quoting in full on all the reasons climate change is so hard to avert.

Why is it so hard to wean ourselves off fossil fuels in time to prevent serious impacts from climate change? It’d be nice if there were just one reason: but there isn’t. There are political, economic, cultural, social, psychological, even physiological barriers.

First, some economic reasons. Fossil fuels are woven through our entire global economy, and 7 out of 10 of the richest corporations in the world depend intimately on fossil fuels for their success, and so have every reason to preserve the status quo. [with link to a list]

Then, political reasons. Money = campaign donations = power. Plus, Republicans oppose “big gov” and climate solutions are typically presented as such. Then there's Citizens United, gerrymandering, many other factors that also play a role in preventing change.

Now some cultural reasons. Climate solutions require acting together, yet culturally the U.S. is one of the most independent countries in the world. Pointy-headed scientists are the messengers; it's no accident this book [Anti-Intellectualism in America by Richard Hofstadter] won the Pulitzer in 196.

More cultural reasons. There is an active disinformation campaign that takes advantage of long-standing cultural divides to paint it as a liberal/anti-christian issue or simply to sow uncertainty — which is just as effective in delaying action.

Then there’s the fact that we as humans are pretty good at immediate threats, but generally terrible at long-term challenges. We already don't save enough to retire or eat what we should. What’s more long-term than climate change?!

Can’t forget emotional reasons: guilt, that nearly every action we take contributes to the problem; anxiety, knowing that even if we do our best, we can’t fix it by ourselves; insecurity + tribalism — we want to belong, so we reflect the opinions of those around us.

False balance in the media, the politicization of religion, the fact that our brains remember weather but not climate, the fact that change is harder than no change...the barriers go on and on.

When you look at it that way, really it's a miracle we've gotten as far as we have!

What's missing from this list? And — more importantly — what do you think are the most important counter-balances to these barriers?

Oops — can't miss the fact that, until recently, the most obvious negative impacts were not occurring where most people live ... but this is changing!

This is why "just tell them the scientific facts" will not change too many minds; "lack of scientific understanding" did not even make this list!

Bottom line: we need to connect the dots between climate change + what people already care about.
All of that and more, but it's good to have her thoughts on this for reference.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Go Co-op!

Literally, go co-op!

From the Vault of the Atomic Space Age (via Cory Doctorow's Twitter feed).

Friday, May 11, 2018

More of Cortland, and Meet Homer

I've written before about Cortland, N.Y. A more recent visit resulted in more photos to share.

First, some with 20th-century commercial interest:

I liked this boarded up painted-block building even before I saw its cornerstone:

I wanted to rescue it and turn it into something... not sure what.

I stopped in at the county historical society, which was pretty interesting. This was maybe the coolest thing I saw:

The label says "The Single Handed manufactured by Wickwire & Garrison, Cortland, N.Y.," and the docent told me it's a vaccum cleaner. There is no information about this object on the interweb... searching Wickwire and Garrison gets you this photo of two buildings in downtown Cortland:

The one on the left is the Garrison block and the one on the right is the Wickwire block. Not sure if one of them housed the factory where these vacuum cleaners were made.

On the north edge of Cortland, you come to the Village of Homer. First you see this octagonal building:

I heard someone is about to renovate it for business use.

I'm glad it will be saved, but its current state of weathering is beautiful in its own way...

...including this hand-written sign on the door.

Just up the street is this place, which used to be the Gunroom, I guess:

At some point, someone rubbed out the G and made it into the Unroom:

It has that fake-brick asbestos siding I associate with rural poverty in upstate New York, and this great weathered partial billboard:

Homer itself is a quaint village with a two-block brick downtown business district that still houses a clothing store and village market, plus a restaurant/bar and a few attempts at chi-chi (an olive oil bar). It was clearly well-to-do in the 19th century, as shown in these engravings from an old atlas:

This last house (note the hitching posts along the street edge) was the residence of Jacob Schermerhorn and is still easy to spot today...

...though the fence is greatly simplified.

Here it is from the other side, showing the carriage portico.

And here are the hitching posts in front.

Another house memorialized as it looked some time in the 19th century is called the David Harum house:

His actual name was David Hanum, and this is the house today:

Love that weeping tree!

David Hanum was a local banker of some repute, and may have been the source for a fictional character called David Harum. He was the subject of an eponymous 1899 best-seller, which was the source of the expression "horse-trading." Homer seems to be a bit confused as to whether Hanum or Harum was the one who lived in their town.

Near these two houses along main street are a number of others that caught my attention:

This one was built in 1816. A close-up of the door:

This brick house was the 1832 birthplace of Andrew Dickson White, cofounder and first president of Cornell University (1866-1885):

A close-up of the gate on the left side of the yard:

I'd like to sandblast that and see the detail under all that paint. Note the broken-off axe on the left side of the symmetrical design.

A few more houses just because they were cool:

There was another house I didn't get a photo of that had a history plaque in front, which read "William Osborn Stoddard, assistant personal secretary to President Lincoln. Born here 1835, died 1925." And remember, Homer had another illustrious resident I've written about before, Amelia Bloomer.